Ethical Consumer is the magazine for the way I want to live, if only I was that good!
Bi-monthly Consumer Magazine
It's kind of like a Which Magazine for ethical living
I glanced through a magazine rack one day at work and discovered this. Now, I cannot wait to read it when it arrives.
Covers a whole host of products, companies and ingredients and reports on ethical and green credentials.
The magazine is much more interesting than it might sound and features some really good whistle blower type articles as well as sound journalism and product guides on a huge number of consumer items and issues.
Naturally it covers such global matters as Green electricity and gas companies, which big companies are best for workers rights, who are the most ethical computer manufacturers, the most ethical supermarkets etc etc.
A recent one I remember well was regarding ethical book sellers, it was interesting, informative and pointed me towards some sellers I did not know about who have excellent ethical credentials.
Ethical Consumer magazine is well laid out, with an easy to follow format and contains something useful to learn or discover every time. They advise and inform on a wide range of issies, not just the "green" ones.
So, What I like about it:
There is always something of interest
There is always something to surprise me
It frequently shocks me
I trust the content
What I don't like:
I like everything, I know it has a semi-matt cover, that's to make it ethical so I understand I cannot logically say that is a disadvantage.
How would I improve it:
Anyone interested in Ethics
Anyone interested in Green issues
Anyone worried about global warming
Philosophy and Ethics students
Philosophy and Ethics teachers
Anyone wanting an informed opinion
Anyone who wants to live a better life
Anyone who wants to be better informed
Anyone who genuinely does not care about humanity or the world
Stop Press - must ad: I get it on subscription via NUS, but I have checked the Ethical Consumer website and they are currently (Aug 2013) offering a free trial and a very good annual subscription rate of £29.95 (not sure if allowed to include a link? - type Ethical Consumer into a search engine)!
Website is very good too!
Ive been an avid reader of Ethical Consumer since Day One. The magazine celebrated its 15th birthday in May this year and continues to go from strength to strength. Its mission statement is promoting change by informing and empowering the consumer, which in a way says it all. This is what the magazine is about corporate social responsibility, ethical consumerism, ethical investment, consumer boycotts, etc. In a word, and in my humble opinion, Ethical Consumer rocks. It fills a gap in the mass media market that promotes the alternative news, the news that the corporate big boys dont really want us to hear.
This publication is produced six times a year. I was originally exposed to it through my work as a researcher within a charity. Understandably corporate social responsibility is a serious issue for a charity. For example, the organisation needs to be sure that a company is not pro-actively in engaging in activity that directly contravenes its objectives
However, Ethical Consumer (EC) impressed me so much through its content and the general quality of journalism that I decided to subscribe to it as an individual.
So whats it all about?
Well, its about consumer ethics! The content of the latest issue (April/May 2004) contains a series of Buyers Guides, a couple of features, some summary news pages and some regular items like letters, a regular columnist and people.
Buyers Guides are a regular and large part of the overall content of EC and covers a diverse range of products. This issue focuses on printers, fizzy drinks, bike accessories and washing up liquid.
Ive used the Buyers Guides on numerous occasions to make purchasing decisions. When I need to replace my fridge freezer several years ago now, it was to Ethical Consumer that I looked for advice. After weighing up the pros and cons of different brands and their parent companies ethics, I decided to buy a Candy model that was a compromise between being the best buy ethically and that fitted in with my budget at the time. Ten years later it is still going strong (touch wood!), so I am quite pleased about that.
When I started reading EC, I was a mere slip of a girl at just 25. I remember being shocked at the discovery that there was such a thing as washable sanitary pads and brands that were made specifically to be environmentally friendly. Although, its not a particularly pleasant topic to think about, nor is the amount of damage caused by irresponsible disposal of such products by flushing them down the loo. Or the sheer amount of these things that are added to landfill sites on a daily basis. Suffice to say it changed the way I thought about and dealt with this aspect of being a woman.
The Guides are written with a specific formula that is applied across all products whether it be printers or washing up liquid. At the beginning of the article, we are given some facts and figures relating to the product and the companies and products that will be reviewed. A best buy is highlighted in a box within the article based on a scoring system used consistently by EC to measure how well behaved companies are in relation to specific issues.
There are four broad categories the Environment, Animals, People and Extras and these are further sub-divided into other areas. I will set them out here because it is important and does set the overall context for the magazine itself and really highlights its unique selling point.
ENVIRONMENT Environmental Reporting, Pollution, Nuclear Power, Environment Other
ANIMALS Animal Testing, Animal Testing Policy, Factory Farming, Other Animal Rights
PEOPLE Oppressive Regimes, Workers Rights, Irresponsible Marketing, Armaments
EXTRAS Genetic Engineering, Boycott Call, Political Activity, Alert
Companies overall ethical performance is rated in a table by the use of a series of shaded dots, correlating to behaviours in certain areas. If I take the Buyers Guide for washing up liquid as an example, Fairy and Persil would be the overall worst buys in ethical terms as both Procter & Gamble and Unilever, their respective manufacturers have poor scores in most boxes. On the other hand a brand called Clear Spring, manufactured by a company called Faith Products would be the best buy as it attracts no scores in any of the boxes.
The Guides also highlight specific concerns relating to use of products where they exist, such as health concerns and focus in on marketing or product techniques that may or may not add value like antibacterial washing up liquids..
The value in these Guides is that they provide the consumer with all the information good and bad, so that they can make an informed decision based on individual value judgements about what products to buy that fit into their ethical criteria and their price range.
This editions features look at the magazines 15 year celebrations that rounds up progress to date and a corporate watch feature that analyses the company Ford which asks is Ford driving us further towards climate change?
I dont want to go into any great depth about individual articles in this edition as that wouldnt add value to my opinion in relating to EC. My review of this publication is to really let you know that it exists, what it exists for, why I love it, how I have used it in my everyday life and to provide a little bit of context.
EC has always been a collaborative project between its subscribers and its staff. One of its defining characteristics has been its lack of a wealthy financial backer and given its general purpose thats hardly surprising. The big corporate entities are hardly going to give financial support to a magazine that holds weight with consumers and is likely to give them a hard time about their ethical behaviour!
One of the other features I love about the magazine, are the Boycotts News pages where consumers are kept up to date with existing and new boycotts. This edition focuses on a boycott of De Beers, the diamonds company, where a boycott is being called for due to the company trying to forcibly trying to remove Bushmen from ancestral lands to resettlement camps, then the company might be able to diamond mine on the land!
The boycott that features most regularly is the Nestle or Nescafe boycott. Ill freely admit to being one of those irritating people who will boycott as many of Nestles products as I can humanly or reasonable know about, and believe me, there are too many to mention! EC provides me with updates on the Nestle issue generally, and I keep a close watch for new Nestle products, so that I can try and ensure I dont buy them. The big issue with Nestle is that they irresponsibly market the use of breast milk substitutes in developing countries. Further information can be obtained by visiting the website of the Baby Milk Action Campaign.
To provide a more balanced opinion, the main criticism that I would have of the magazine is that it can be VERY left wing and by its very nature is rather radical. It really depends on what rocks your boat, what you believe in, what you think is acceptable or not in relation to corporate ethical behaviour. What it does, is provide you with enough information to enable you to make a reliable and considered decision.
Its a question of priorities really. If I tried to go for the ethical option every time, Id end up really depressed because its probably almost humanly impossible. For me, its about weighing up the pros and cons, and about how that companys behaviour affects people. But for others, the driving factor might be animals or impact on the environment. Were all individuals and we all hold different beliefs.
The advertising within the magazine is limited, but its great because its really focused in on environmentally friendly and ethically sourced and promoted goods. Products do tend to be slightly more expensive but are generally of quite good quality.
EC costs £3.50 per individual issue, but its well worth the money. You can subscribe to it on an annual basis, and you can also subscribe to a research supplement that supports each issue. The research supplement basically provides the details behind the criticisms of the companies contained in that issue for example, why a company scores badly in oppressive regimes. The supplement also contains references to validate how, where and by whom, information was obtained. There is an additional cost for this. Annual subscription without supplement is £19 and £31 with.
EC is published by ECRA Publishing Limited. Further information is available on their website www.ethicalconsumer.org.
The company also provide other services such as primary research and maintain a database called corporate critic. I'll leave it at that for now as I may review the website separately some other time!
If your serious about your ethical consumerism, dont wait, go out and subscribe to this NOW.
Thanks for reading.
© Christina ;-) x
For consumers who want to shop ethically, this bi-monthly magazine is produced by the Ethical Consumers Research Association has been around for something like 15 years now. It's extremely informative, and guaranteed to interest anyone who's the least bit interested in ethical matters in general. Regular features include: - Buyers' guide. Usually about 4 each issue e.g. computers, baby food, soft drinks. Like the Which? reports, different brands are compared, but the emphasis is on which is most 'environmentally friendly'. These are extremely detailed, and well researched, so you can pinpoint firms whose record is bad on animal rights, pollution, political donations, workers' rights, genetic engineering - whatever you are most interested in. - Tynkyns - (Things You Never Knew You Needed), which really pokes fun at the useless objects you get in those glossy catalogues that fall out of the Sunday newspapers every now and then. - Boycott news - unbiased reporting of various organisations' calls for boycott s of products or companies. - Money section - ethical funds, Third world debt, etc. The advertising is strictly controlled, too - so you only see things from firms who are ethically sound. Nice to see a magazine that practices what it preaches. There are also plenty of cartoons in each issue, to lighten things up. Sample issue and subscription details at www.ethicalconsumer.org